Covington mayor asks BD plant to cease operations after independent tests for EtO

Big developments involving the industrial plant in Covington releasing a known carcinogen into the air. After independent testing of Ethylene Oxide, ETO, the city of Covington has asked the BD plant to temporarily cease operations until additional safeguards are in place. But representatives with the BD plant insist it is safe, even providing an expert toxicologist to back up their claim.

The results of independent testing to measure the levels of ethylene Oxide, EtO, released from the Becton Dickinson Plant are back. Covington city leaders sent a letter to BD requesting the plant temporarily cease sterilization operations until additional safeguards are in place.

“We had some results higher than expected. I’m asking them to voluntarily shut down their sterilization process,” said Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston.

He said independent testing of ETO emissions took place over seven days at eleven locations - around the plant, at nearby neighborhoods and even into Conyers and DeKalb County. He has asked BD to work with the city, the state’s Environmental Protection Division and the EPA because the city can’t go at it alone.

“I do not technically have the authority to forcefully shut them down,” said Mayor Johnston.

Toby Sammons lives a little more than a football field away from the BD Plant.

“I would love to see it shut down until the state can come in and do what needs to be done,” said Sammons.

He said many in his neighborhood have already moved or are selling because of EtO. Sammons said he and other Covington residents need definitive action.

“Ask the governor to shut it down, quit stalling,” said Sammons.

When FOX 5 News asked to speak to the company, BD provided Michael Dourson, who is an expert toxicologist with the nonprofit Toxicology for Risk Assessment.

“Ethylene Oxide comes from different sources,” said Dourson. He said many sources of EtO which is produced naturally, even by our own bodies, could contribute to higher readings in the city test.

Dourson said BD’s own testing at the plant found a median level of a microgram per meter cubed. He said that’s equal to about a fifth of a single grain of sugar.

It’s complicated science which leads Dourson to this conclusion.

“BD is absolutely safe. These estimates are in the range well in the range of safety levels established by OSHA,” said Dourson.

The letter to BD from the City of Covington was also sent to Governor Brian Kemp. The results of the city’s independent testing are expected to be reviewed at the Covington City Council meeting Monday night.